On her bike ride to work in Montreal, French Language Village dean Kathryn Katy Droske rode through Little Italy, Chinatown and Little Portugal. The road is familiar to Katy, who spent time in the 1980’s at Concordia University. One course of particular influence on Katy was Quebec literature, where all the novels were set in Montreal. Katy would often venture forth and find the locations mentioned in the reading.
“One time I had a paper to write and I was having a hard time getting motivated,” she says. “There was a passage that described a poutine shop. Poutine is a Canadian dish of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, and I found this shop that was described in the book and went there and got all my quotes together while in the shop. It was a cool way to tie my research into where I was.”
Along her route, Katy would often see a distinguishing feature in the architecture in Montreal. “They have these winding staircases leading to second floor apartments. They reason that you save space having the staircases outside rather than inside the building, so there’s space for another room. They’re usually metal, and very beautiful and striking.”
Though some may consider poutine and spiral staircases worth the visit, Katy’s tenure in Montreal was more than just tourism. It was intended for the study of the well-known French-Canadian author Gabrielle Roy. In 2011, Katy received a research grant to work with Roy’s archives at Concordia University from September through mid-December.
“Part of my research was reading Gabrielle Roy’s archives and unpublished works, which included articles and personal correspondence. I read hundreds, possibly thousands of letters, which inspired me to revive an old habit.”
Katy, inspired by Gabrielle Roy’s personal correspondence, took time each week to write letters. “Tuesday night was letter-writing night, which let me reflect on my experiences and share stories with friends in a way that we don’t really get to these days. It reminded me of camp, and the villagers coming to Lac du Bois who are writing letters for the first time and have never been exposed to it before. I’d like to keep up the habit.”